Gabrielle Giffords Returns to Washington in Emotional Visit

Posted October 6, 2011 at 5:12pm

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said today that it was “thrilling” to see Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Washington, D.C., for the second time since the Arizona Democrat was shot in January.

Giffords attended an afternoon event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building marking the retirement of her husband, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. She pinned a medal on his jacket.

“I was very impressed,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol after the event. “I’ve probably seen Gabby about once a month since the eight months since the tragedy, and I was very impressed with the strength of her presence, how she walked in.”

This is Giffords’ second trip to Washington since she was shot in the head in an assassination attempt. She was in the Capitol in early August to vote on a bill to raise the debt ceiling in a surprise visit that drew a prolonged standing ovation.

Pelosi said today’s event was almost as emotional as the August vote.

“She looked great, she sounded great, and it was quite thrilling,” the California Democrat said. “I don’t know if anything will ever be as thrilling as the day, however, when she came to the Congress to make sure the United States would uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. That day was a day in history that none of us will ever see anything quite as joyous as that, but today was right up there with that.”

Pelosi sat in the front row near Giffords, along with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) and former Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.).

Hoyer told reporters at the event that the August vote was “such an energizing and uplifting experience,” according to the Arizona Daily Star.

“I told her, ‘I love you,’ and she responded, ‘I love you,’” Hoyer said of an emotional exchange with Giffords on a Capitol elevator.

Giffords entered today’s ceremony with her chief of staff, Pia Carusone, as well as her mother, mother-in-law and two stepdaughters. As in August, she received sustained applause when entering the room, the Daily Star reported.

During the ceremony, Kelly told Giffords, “Gabby, you remind me every day to deny the acceptance of failure.

“I look forward to the next phase of our life together and watching all of your future achievements,” he added.

Vice President Joseph Biden, speaking at the ceremony, called the couple an inspiration.

“As vice president, I get to work with an awful lot of people who devote their lives day to day to public service,” he said. “But it’s not every day you encounter examples of sheer, sheer courage, selflessness and dedication like you see in this couple.”

Jessica Brady contributed to this report.

Correction: Oct. 6, 2011

An earlier version of this story’s headline misstated where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords visited in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.